January 27, 2019

POSSUM: Personal Nightmare Fuel

Starring Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong. Directed by Matthew Holness. (2018/87 min).


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Sometimes the effectiveness of a horror film depends on what the viewer brings to the table. For me, Possum was a gut punch.

What I personally brought to the table were life-threatening heart & lung issues that happened about a decade ago. Without getting into specifics, I was in the hospital for months. When not in an induced coma, I was pumped with plenty o' drugs. Complicating matters was the fact I was an alcoholic at the time and enjoyed a wide variety of withdrawl symptoms. My favorites were the hallucinations, most of which I vividly remember to this day.

What makes Possum such an unnerving experience - for me, anyway - is that it plays a lot like those same hallucinations. It's like writer/director Matthew Holness captured my DTs on film, right down to the giant spider that lurked in the corner of my hospital room to pass judgment on me.

A cinch to win this year's World's Ugliest Dog contest.
In the film, the "spider" is named Possum, a large puppet owned by Philip (Sean Harris), an emotionally unstable puppeteer who returns to the ramshackle house where he grew up (and his parents died in a fire years earlier). With giant hairy legs and humanoid face, Possum is a horrific creation that may or may not be a figment of Philip's imagination. As the story unfolds, we get the increasing impression Possum might be his conscience. Either way, Possum is a heavy burden, but despite Philip's efforts to destroy it, the puppet always returns. Maurice (Alun Armstrong) is Philip's nasty, abusive uncle who also lives in the house (or does he?). Though not remotely welcome, Philip makes no attempt to evict the old man. Meanwhile, a teenage boy goes missing and, based on his past, Philip appears to be a suspect.

Sean Harris channels his inner-Bela Lugosi.
Light on dialogue and exposition, Possum unfolds like one of those nightmares in which we're helplessly swept along by forces beyond our control. Like those dreams - or my hallucinations - we aren't necessarily scared in the traditional sense. Instead, horror is created by instilling unease in the viewer, primarily through haunting imagery, an eerily effective music score and a protagonist we never trust. But again, what constitutes true horror depends on what the viewer brings. Unremittingly bleak, narratively vague and very deliberately paced, I imagine many viewers will find Possum pretentious, boring and frustratingly ambiguous.

Because of my own past experiences, I found Possum to be slow-burning nightmare fuel. Possum itself is one creepy-ass puppet that grows increasingly sinister as the narrative unfolds. The film isn't for everybody, but patient, adventurous viewers will find some of its disturbing imagery unforgettable.

FEATURETTES - Behind-the-scenes footage along with cast & director interviews.
(though some will totally disagree)

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